Oct 03

iHome iD55 with iPadAfter trying several portable iPhone speaker systems over the years, I pretty much gave up finding one ideal for my needs. I still tested portable speakers now and again, of course – for professional reasons – but all left me wanting. The best I’ve found was the Altec Lansing iMT702, and it was released over three years ago. Since then it’s been disappointment after disappointment.

So when word came that iHome, one of my favorite iOS speaker companies, was releasing a sleek new portable speaker, the iD55, I was encouraged. Surely this reasonably priced system would perform better than its current, lousy competitors. iHome had never really let me down before.

No such luck.

While well designed and constructed, its poor performance and lack of obvious conveniences left me, once again, looking for a wall outlet.

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Oct 01

iPhone 5 with EarPodsGive three thoughtful users Apple’s iPhone 5 and each could easily come away with a different reaction. One sees a leap forward: an iPhone with a larger screen, LTE connectivity, and an attention to detail unmatched in consumer tech. Another spies a stale, lagging attempt to catch up to innovative competitors: a phone without a single industry-shifting pivot, no obvious next-gen features, and a last-decade OS.

Each is a defensible reaction to the iPhone 5, because both are true to an extent.  Therefore, it is the third, middle-ground view that rings most true for me:

This is the best iPhone yet, with long overdue additions, tweaks and advances certain to be welcomed by long-time users. But there’s disappointment, too, because Apple has once again played it safe.

Just a week out of the gate, the iPhone 5 is already a huge success, and will continue to be for the next twelve months – both in terms of sales and general user satisfaction. But Apple should be on notice; resting on your laurels can only take you so far for so long.

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May 02

iHome iW2 AirPlay SpeakerAirPlay is a technology developed by Apple that allows media to be streamed wirelessly via Wi-Fi to and from various devices. The Apple TV is the most conspicuous exemplar of the technology, which allows users of iPads, iPhones, iPod touches and compatible computers to stream movies, photos and music to their TVs without a cable.

But AirPlay has another application that doesn’t get much attention: wireless speaker systems.

There is a small selection of AirPlay-enabled speaker systems that leverage this technology to create a speaker setup in a room, several rooms, or throughout the house. They’re expensive alternatives to traditional iOS speaker solutions, and not for everyone. But if you have certain needs – and a liberal budget – they fill a need few other solutions can: connected wireless speakers with excellent range and sound, with the option to expand to multiple rooms.

I’ve recently spent a few weeks with one of these systems, the iHome iW2, which is one of the more affordable AirPlay units sold. At $199 MSRP it’s not cheap, but its excellent performance and relatively low price make the iW2 a tempting choice for those looking to add AirPlay speakers to their home or office.  Sadly, though, the iW2 and other AirPlay speakers share a common usage restriction.

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Mar 27

iHome iD50 Front View with iPad 2Last year’s iHome iA100 remains one of the most feature-rich (and complicated) iPhone/iPad alarm systems ever released. It’s one of the few solutions  for demanding users who want unmatched control of how their alarm clock and iOS device(s) work together to ease them to sleep or into a new day. Despite its high price and over reliance on app-based controls, it’s still on my recommend list for users who would benefit (as I do) from its highly-customizable options. 

But there’s a new iHome iOS alarm clock that’s probably a better choice for most would-be users.  The company has released what you might call the iA100’s little brother, the iD50. Similar to the iA100, the new iHome iD50 is smaller, cheaper, shares most of the same features, and adds a welcome dose of simplicity without sacrificing function.

All things being equal, I’d say if you were considering the iA100, you should go with the iD50 instead.

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Mar 16

3rd Generation iPad

Updated March 19, 2012: For days I’ve been reading rave reviews of the new 3rd Gen iPad. Each early reviewer had his own unique observations, but generally the love was directed where you would expect: the Retina display, battery life, graphics performance, LTE, and overall Apple-ness. From the moment it was announced – and actually even before – I never doubted I would love the new iPad even more than I did the first generation or the iPad 2. 

And I do greatly appreciate the important new features. But after spending a few days with Apple’s second tablet revision, love is not the first word I’d use to describe my feeling.  In fact, I’m a little disappointed.  Not that the iPad 3 isn’t great – it absolutely is -  or that it’s improvements aren’t important – they are – but in taking their tablet to the next level, Apple has also sacrificed some of what made the device feel like the “magical” slab of glass it’s been since the first model was introduced two years ago. 

Is the gain worth the give?

The Hardware

An understanding of the new iPad’s hardware begins and ends with its screen, the Retina display.  This 2048×1536 264PPI  IPS touchscreen is the star at the center of the iPad 3 system, around which all revolves.

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